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Archive for March, 2010

Photo credit: linh.ngân

Personality measures are based on different theories about the main dimensions of personality or on categorized findings about how people react for example to pictures or respond to questions. Personality tests are a way to create structure and quantify information about a vague concept . They help in assessing fit between job characteristics and personal working style as well as in determining the unique dynamic of a mind, its weak spots and strengths.

At one time psychologists were of the opinion that the information revealed by psychological methods and especially any statements written by psychologists should not be disclosed to patients or customers. The common idea was that the information would be damaging and the person could not take it. This notion is thankfully completely discarded at least among all self-respecting psychologists. Most psychologists nowadays view self knowledge as a liberating thing. It adds a sense of control, freedom of choice and polyphony to the definition of the self.

Self knowledge permits the individual to be aware of his own needs and make informed choices concerning his own goals. In the job market, a person who is aware of his personality, knowhow and experience is bound to apply for the right jobs and get them. Self-knowledge lets the individual be the master of his own fate, to put it in a grandiose way. An employee with developed awarenessdoes not depend on external structure or other people for motivation and wellbeing but is able to create it himself.

According to Jungian typology I am an INFJ, according to the Belbin theory a Plant and a Team Worker with my BIS a little elevated and the BAS on an average level in the BIS BAS system. Knowing this does not definitely capture all that I am but offers a way to reflect on what I experience interaction with others. Information like this helps to recognize what kinds of work settings suit me, what kind of team members I produce good results with and what kind of things support or decrease my motivation. On an emotional level, knowing these things about myself has been liberating and created a sense of permission to be the way I am. By being aware of these characteristics, I can operate more smoothly with others and concentrate on working on the things and in a way that brings me most joy.

The danger is that characterizations can be seen as an excuse not to be critical towards yourself. “This is how I am I can’t help it” is no excuse – if you already know that you have characteristics that may for example cause misunderstanding in communication with others, the possibility to modify your behavior is there.

Personality measures and other psychological definitions do not imply the end of personal development but provide a researched and theoretically useful way of describing a person’s unique way of functioning. They serve the individual by creating self-knowledge that liberates, creates freedom of choice and ultimately helps in finding happiness.

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Photo credit: Lauren Manning

Learning constitutes change but is most easily measured by memory. If you can remember something, then it has changed you and become part of your mind’s current information structures and activity. The most efficient way to create change in the brain is to active multimodal neural networks. As an example of the effects of multimodality, it was found that after only two weeks of practicing a piece on the piano, the brain’s preconscious discrimination ability becomes more acute. There is a difference between just listening to music and to listening and trying to play – combining sensory and motor activities levels produces more change.

People will intuitively tell you that the best way to learn something new is by just trying to do it. Peoples’ intuition is excellent and should be listened to more. Reading documents or listening to a presentation do not produce as much activation or steady memory traces as actually participating in creating the knowledge. Pedagogical models, such as problem-based learning incorporate just this idea and have been put to use in some lucky learning-centered organizations. The idea behind PBL is that a learner takes ownership of the learning process so that it fits his thought architecture and uses collaboration with others to produce new knowledge. This brings more meaning to the subject and overall activation to the learning process.

When combining the idea of multimodal activity and problem-based learning, the modern workplace produces the best possible setting for effective, brain-altering learning. People constantly work in hypermedia contexts with different thought-supporting solutions and activate the brain with visual and auditory input about the subject they are working on. Problem-solving at enlightened workplaces is employee-driven, which produces more innovation, freedom of expression and learning in the work community. In the best case, work actions themselves persist in digital form and can be reflected on later which supports development of metacognitive skills.

The makings of greatness are present in many organizations but what is still needed is liberation. When work processes and contents are over-defined to maximize efficiency it reduces the potential of the brain and restrains creativity and learning. It may be a scary thing to decide to rely on the unique capacities that employees have and to let information roam free inside the organization. However, if organizations wish to make use of what is known about efficient learning and the amazing technologies that can easily be used today, a shift in thinking about learning, knowledge ownership and leadership is required, as well as freedom for the mind.

Thank you spring

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Learning ability is one of the most crucial elements that build personal and organizational success in constantly changing environments and hypermedia contexts. How can learning ability be measured and more importantly, how can it be developed?

IQ measurement typically contains a set of tasks that reflect different aspects of intelligence, such as speed, accuracy, working memory span, verbal reasoning or visuo-spatial ability. Many correlates to IQ have been formulated and manifest in practice as tests of logical or verbal reasoning. The idea in using these tests to predict learning ability is that people who can efficiently handle abstract and concrete information and make correct judgments based on it are also good at learning new things and act sharply in a work setting. This kind of measurement and concept of learning reflects the idea that it is a fixed characteristic. However, if learning is viewed in light of what is known about brain function, the development of learning theories, different pedagogical models as well as the characteristics of hypermedia work, it poses new demands on measurement and even definition of intelligent functioning.

When applying the connectivist view of learning to measuring and defining intelligence, it is not important how much information is in store, but what kinds of connections you are able to create within knowledge frameworks and in useful contexts. Instead of focusing on memory of static information, it would be more sensible to concentrate on the ability to form enriching connections, be it with technology or people. Learning ability as a concrete characteristic should be redefined as something more dynamic, such as readiness to connect in a meaningful way which truly reflects the ability to learn.

However, as the huge amount of information and media available leads at times to redundancy, so can new connections be value creating or a pure waste of energy. Creating learning that is of some use requires that a person experiences a sense of meaning in the learning situation / connection. An important quality of someone who wishes to learn more would then be to be more aware of things that are personally meaningful. There is no sense in building connections and learning things that have no personal purpose. This is a fabulous thing, because it means that to develop their learning, people should only do things they honestly find interesting and that take them towards their personal goals.

If learning and intelligent function exist only temporarily and morph with context, they seem quite difficult to grasp with psychological constructs and traditional methods based on their operationalization. Evaluating or measuring learning ability should thus always happen in a reasonable context. Simulations as assessment methods have long been used to elicit intelligent context-based action and interaction and continue to be a functional tool for assessment of complex activities such as learning. Also, taking the importance of context out of the picture, measuring the precursors to intelligent function and successful connectivism such as executive function, working memory and attention would give more valuable information about human capacity than an IQ score. Within an individual, the development of learning ability involves growth of awareness, pursuit of personal happiness and increase of internal and reciprocal connectivist activity.

Thank you Jarkko Mylläri

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An image of "brainbows", neurons in the mouse cerebral cortex. Photo credit: Livet et al/PA Wire

The need for new innovations and the need to foster creativity in teams is manifest in many organizations. What can organizations and their employees do to be more innovative?

Creativity is usually seen as an obscure characteristic that people are or are not born with. As other personal characteristics, creativity is difficult to measure and usually people just arrive at dichotomous observations about it – “that guy is really creative” or “I’m not creative at all”. However, if creativity is viewed as change and learning that occur within people and between them, rather than something that people solely possess, it opens a multitude of possibilities.

Learning always results in change. Every time an individual experiences something, there are changes in the dynamics of brain function. Learning something means that the brain changes on a neuronal level, that new connections are built or old ones activated differently.

Creativity as a learning process implies that individuals within an organization need to engage in conversation to produce change in their knowledge structures. Information and expertise cannot be seen as something people own but something that is open to discussion and development. This requires an open atmosphere and platforms for interaction.

If the people in an organization view their expertise as something they sell to the organization or a lever in negotiation, it is excluded from wider discussion and development. Knowledge that is imperfect or uncertain is often excluded from conversation because of shame. Fear of making mistakes and presenting imperfect knowledge hinders development, because the common opinion is that intelligence is the same as possession of facts and lack of mistakes. However, an organization that is open to imperfection and development of incompleteness is creative and can produce innovation. The employees in such an organization do not strive to impress or be perceived as intelligent by presenting facts but strive to learn from each other and develop imperfect thoughts in interaction.

On an individual level, development of metacognitive capacity increases possibilities to develop thinking and improves learning. Metacognition is defined as “thinking about thinking”. It can be divided into metacognitive awareness and metacognitive self-regulatory mechanisms such as planning and evaluating strategies that are essential for successful problem-solving and efficient learning.

Metacognition can be learned and has many beneficial consequences. Many effective therapies aim at increasing metacognition, awareness of own thought patterns and control over them. Increasing metacognitive capacity in individuals increases the possibility to learn, create new thoughts and develop them. Metacognition also occurs and develops in interaction, and if interaction contains metacognitive elements, it increases learning of all parties involved.

Organizations that wish to produce innovation should first help their employees develop as individuals. Creating and allowing free interaction between individuals in a permissive and respecting atmosphere, supporting their metacognitive awareness and offering structure to work that increases metacognitive skills are all powerful steps to take on the road to creative thinking.

Thank you Esko Kilpi

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This is the company blog of Cresco Psychologist Agency. Our employees will be writing here articles about organizational learning, wellbeing and self-knowledge.

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